New Delhi: The Supreme Court is scheduled to pronounce its verdict in the suo motu contempt case against activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan for his two tweets allegedly derogatory against the judiciary.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra will pronounce its verdicts in the matter. The top court on August 5 had reserved its verdict in the matter after Bhushan defended his two alleged contemptuous tweets saying they were against the judges regarding their conduct in their personal capacity and they did not obstruct administration of justice.
On July 22, the top court had issued a show cause notice to Bhushan after initiating the criminal contempt against him for his two tweets. While reserving the order in the contempt case, the top court had dismissed a separate petition filed by Bhushan seeking recall of the July 22 order by which the notice was issued against him in a contempt proceeding initiated for his alleged contemptuous tweets against the judiciary.
The top court had not agreed to the contention of senior advocate Dushayant Dave, representing Bhushan, that the separate plea had raised objection against the manner in which the contempt proceedings were started without the opinion of Attorney General K K Venugopal and it be sent to another bench.
Bhushan had sought a direction to declare that the apex court's secretary general has allegedly "acted unconstitutionally and illegally" in accepting a "defective contempt petition" filed against him, which was initially placed on the administrative side and later on the judicial side.
Referring to a judgement, the apex court had said that it has "meticulously" followed the law in entertaining the contempt plea and it did not agree to the submission that it be sent to another bench for hearing. Dave arguing for Bhushan in the contempt case had said, "The two tweets were not against the institution.
"They are against the judges in their personal capacity regarding their conduct. They are not malicious and do not obstruct administration of justice". Bhushan has made immense contribution to the development of jurisprudence and there are "at least 50 judgments to his credit", he had said, adding that the court has appreciated his contributions in cases like 2G scam, coal block allocation and in mining matters.
"Perhaps you would have given him 'Padma Vibhushan' for the work he did in the last 30 years," Dave had said, adding that this was not the case where contempt proceedings would have been initiated. Referring to the ADM Jabalpur case on suspension of fundamental rights during the emergency, the senior advocate had said that even "extremely uncharitable" remarks against the judges were made and no contempt proceedings were made out.
In a 142-page reply affidavit, Bhushan stood by his two tweets and had said the expression of opinion, "however outspoken, disagreeable or unpalatable to some", cannot constitute contempt of court. Bhushan, in the affidavit, has referred to several apex court judgements, speeches of former and serving judges on contempt of court and the "stifling of dissent" in a democracy and his views on judicial actions in some cases.
"The respondent (Bhushan) states that the expression of his opinion however outspoken, disagreeable or however unpalatable to some, cannot constitute contempt of court. This proposition has been laid down by several judgments of the Supreme Court and in foreign jurisdictions such as Britain, USA and Canada," he has submitted.
Preventing citizens from demanding accountability and reforms and advocating for the same by generating public opinion is not a ''reasonable restriction'', the affidavit had said, adding that the Article 129 cannot be pressed into service to stifle bonafide criticism.
While referring to the tweets by Bhushan, the apex court had said these statements are prima facie capable of "undermining the dignity and authority" of the institution of the Supreme Court in general and the office of Chief Justice of India in particular, in the eyes of the public at large.